TOUS living Lakeview Ave No: 3784 Inwood Canada
“We never meet them in our paths,
They never cross our ways,
God's angels are not now on earth,
As in the olden days.”
The young man spake in careless mood.—
Slowly his silver head
The grey-haired dalesman lifted up,
And thoughtful answeréd.
“We had a little shepherd maid,
She was not six years old;
Why sayest thou, the veil between
The visible, and things unseen,
May never be unrolled?
“She dwelt amid these upland downs,
Untaught of men or books,
Alone with Nature all day long,
Her shadows and her brooks.
“A few loved words in church-time learnt,
Were comrades to the child,
And prayer and psalm-tune haunted her,
Along the lonely wild.
“She was as fearless in her soul,
As innocent of heart,
And safe in her own simple trust,
Dwelt with God's things apart.
“The wintry path was white with snow,
Her father, through the dark,
Has caught his cottage window's gleam,
And blessed the tiny spark.
“No little lips with kisses warm,
Have bade him welcome home:
‘Good mother, where is my poor child?
This was no day to roam.’
“‘The child has sought the upland farm,’
The mother said; and to and fro
She paced the room uneasily,
And in an earnest tone spake she,
(As though that sad thing might not be,
Whereto her lip would not agree,)
‘Not in this driving snow,
“‘They would not let my darling forth,
The dame is kind and free,
The farmer hath a father's heart,
She is as safe as we.’
“In vain, within the chimney nook,
She sets his wicker chair,
And draws the white-clothed table forth,
And brings his supper there.
“He looks upon the little stool,
His favourite corner near,
And saith, ‘The snow-drift chokes the pane;
I would the child were here.’
“The mother sitteth opposite,
Her baby on her knee,
And looks into his anxious eyes,
And chokes the rising sob, and cries,
‘She is as safe as we.’
“Slowly and cold the evening hours
Passed over the white earth,
While the two sat with doubtful hearts,
Beside their lonely hearth.
“And one, or other, would look forth,
And cry, ‘It snows not overhead,’
Then sit again, and smiling say,
‘There is no cause for dread.’
“But oft that night in restless sleep,
The father muttered low,
‘The path is wild, the drift is deep,
My child is in the snow.’
“And then the wakeful mother laid
Her hand upon his breast,
And cried, ‘The child is safe from harm,
She sleepeth soundly at the farm,
Why art thou so distressed?’
“The sullen morn breaks slow at last,
And both are on the watch,
Hark! there's a whistle through the gloom,
A hand upon the latch.
“Young Richard from the upland farm
Has waded through the snow,
‘Up, shepherd, up; two sheep of ours
Were in the vale below;
“‘I told the child when yesternoon
She left my father's door,—’
Why does the father shuddering stand?
Why does the mother wring her hand?
He looketh round in sudden fear,
A little empty crib stands near,
He needs not question more.
“Few words, brief answer; she had left
The upland farm at noon,
With merry laugh, and voice that cried,
She would have shelter soon.
“The snow lay deep along the path,
But all the sky was clear,
Nor yet the stormy wind was up,
And the child felt no fear.
“They never doubted, long before
The drifts were driven so deep,
The little weary one would be
In her own bed asleep.
“The father looked in Richard's face,
And caught his spade in haste;
The first red streaks of struggling dawn
Broke o'er the level waste.
“And Richard from the mother took
The cordials she would give,
And inly sighed, ‘'Tis possible
Yet the poor child may live.’
“The vexing wind hath ceased to chide;
One sheet of leaden hue
The sky hung o'er them, with few streaks
Of purple breaking through.
“They passed the tuft of birchen trees,
They passed the traveller's stone,
By the green hawthorn, green no more,
Where oft the maiden lone
“In summer-time her garlands wove,
And plucked the berries bright;—
The youth has touched the father's arm,
And guided his dim sight.
“For under the half-buried tree,
A miserable shade,
(The snow-drift had not covered them)
Were little footprints made.
“The youth has tracked them eagerly,
‘The sheep-fold on the height,
The child has sought its sheltering wall:’
The father grew more white.
“‘Alas! alas! the quick rough stream,
The quarry, old and deep,
Without a guide, without a track,
She would not climb the steep.’
“They followed onward silently,
Still o'er the trackless way;
Like scattered stars to guide them on,
The little footsteps lay.
“They hear the stream run hoarse and deep,
Its shaggy banks between,
So closely met, so piled with snow,
The bridge is scarcely seen.
“But straight across the narrow plank,
And up the steep ascent,
Without a miss, without a slip,
The little footsteps went.
“And by the old mine's yawning mouth,
And all the gulf along,
So close, one step had ended all;
But not one step went wrong.
“They followed o'er the level waste,
A track as straight and true,
As though her eyes had seen the path,
That wound the heather through.
“And where the moorland herds had reared
Rude shelter for their sheep,
Rough stones with shingles covered o'er,
They found the child asleep.
“But who can tell her waking joy?
The rapture of the sire?—
And this the child's unprompted tale
Myself have heard, and all the dale,
Told many a night when cheeks grew pale,
Around the cottage fire.
“‘The upland moor was all so white,
My path I scarcely knew,
And in my face the cold north wind
The glittering snow-drift blew.
“‘I could not call, I could not see,
My very breath was gone;
I tied the kerchief o'er my face,
And slowly struggled on.
“‘I think it might be two long hours,
Two hours perchance, or three,
I turned myself around, and tried
To find where I might be.
“‘I stood beside the hawthorn tree,
I knew it was the same,
From ribands that we tied thereon,
When last the May-day came.
“‘There was a space beneath its boughs
Not yet quite covered o'er,
I crept therein to rest awhile,
For I was wearied sore.
“‘I heard my own teeth chattering,
The night was gathering round;
I crouched into the cold hard tree,
I crouched into the ground.
“‘I thought, perchance, that father's path
Lay this way o'er the wold,
It was so far away from home,
And I so bitter cold.
“‘But fast the clouds formed up in heaven,
Deep fell the darkening shade,
Like curtains round the great white earth,
And I did grow afraid.
“‘And hoarser howled the strong fierce wind
Along the moorland bare;
I tried to clasp my two cold hands,
And say our Lord's Own Prayer.
“‘And when I did look up, that God
Might hear me as I prayed,
O, mother dear, a little boy
Was coming to my aid.
“‘A little shepherd boy he seemed,
But strange to me his mien,
I never saw him on the heath,
Or met him on the green.
“‘He spoke no word, but looked at me
With eyes so bright and sweet,
And then with gentle gesture raised,
And set me on my feet.
“‘He beckoned with his little hand,
That was as white as snow:
Methought I could have followed him
Wherever he would go.
“‘And by the brook, and o'er the bridge,
And by the quarried stone,
He led all up the dangerous path
I fear to tread alone.
“‘And when I wearied on the steep,
Or trembled in the blast,
He put his two arms round me then,
And held me close and fast.
“‘And when within the moorland fold
Sheltered and housed I lay,
He wrapped me close with tender touch,
And then he went away.’
“In silent awe, we looked to Heaven,
Hearing the maiden's word,
And Richard said, ‘The child has seen
An Angel of the Lord.’
“Go thou, and if thine heart have scorned,
And if thy lip have smiled,
Learn gentler thought, and holier dream;
The spirit of a child.
“‘Go, learn their love, who conscious still
Of Saintly commune dear,
Walk gently on their earthly path,
With Heaven around them here;
“‘Who deem the Great God's sheltering wing,
O'er all the wide earth broods,
And His bright Angels wander through
His holy solitudes;
“Who deem the sun has brightest hues,
For newly watered flowers,
And eyes just washed in Heaven's own dew,
See more perchance than ours.
“Go, school thy speech, make pure thine heart,
Lest word or thought of pride
Should scare away the beings bright,
That wander at thy side.”